Bangladesh has moved three notches up on the Corruption Perception Index 2019 to secure the 146th position among 180 countries, although its corruption score remains the same as that of 2018.
The paradox is better explained by a few countries that were above Bangladesh in the previous year's ranking.
These countries – Guatemala, Nigeria, Iran, Comoros and Honduras – performed badly in 2019 and so slipped down the index released yesterday, automatically pushing Bangladesh's ranking higher.
Bangladesh scored 26 points out of 100 on the index.
While disclosing the report findings, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said corruption in Bangladesh has neither increased nor decreased last year. Despite no reduction of corruption, Bangladesh improved in ranking due to increased corruption in other countries.
According to the Transparency International, the Berlin-based civil society organisation that published the index, Bangladesh is the second most corrupt nation in South Asia. Afghanistan scored the worst in the region, ranking at 173rd.
The least corrupt countries on the index all scored 80 and above. Denmark and New Zealand ranked first with scores of 87, Finland secured the third position, and Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland stood at the fourth position.
Compared to these countries, not only did Bangladesh score poorly in 2019, but it has been repeatedly scoring at the bottom since being included in the index in 2001.
In 2012, when the index started being scored on a scale of 100, Bangladesh scored 26. Since then, the country has been stuck in this range, going up or down by a point or two each year.
Even the latest anti-corruption drives launched by the government last year were unable to impact the score.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman explained that the political bias and weakness of democratic institutions were holding back the fight against corruption.
"The Anti-Corruption Commission [ACC] is not being empowered as required," he said, adding that other institutions are also not bringing the big fish to trial.
"Moreover, some senior ACC officials themselves have been accused of corruption in recent times. The ACC lacks competence and courage. The government identifies it as its own institution."
Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the zero-tolerance policy against corruption had been limited to the mid-level culprits, while high profile corrupt people are still roaming free.
He also stated that Bangladesh is losing about 2-3 percent of its economic growth due to corruption.
Regarding the banking system, he claimed that regulations to operate banks are being prepared with the recommendations of loan defaulters and all the regulations are in favour of these defaulters.
Advocate Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra, said Bangladesh could achieve more development if there was no corruption in the country.
However, she also said Bangladesh had achieved remarkable progress in many other socioeconomic indicators along with the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).